Controlling quality and amount of mitochondria by mitophagy: insights into the role of ubiquitination and deubiquitination

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Mitophagy is a selective autophagy pathway conserved in eukaryotes and plays an essential role in mitochondrial quality and quantity control. Mitochondrial fission and fusion cycles maintain a certain amount of healthy mitochondria and allow the isolation of damaged mitochondria for their elimination by mitophagy. Mitophagy can be classified into receptor-dependent and ubiquitin-dependent pathways. The mitochondrial outer membrane protein Atg32 is identified as the only known receptor for mitophagy in baker's yeast, whereas mitochondrial proteins FUNDC1, NIX/BNIP3L, BNIP3 and Bcl2L13 are recognized as mitophagy receptors in mammalian cells. Earlier studies showed that ubiquitination and deubiquitination occurs in yeast, yet there is no direct evidence for an ubiquitin-dependent mitophagy pathway in this organism. In contrast, a ubiquitin-/PINK1-/Parkin-dependent mitophagy pathway was unraveled and was extensively characterized in mammals in recent years. Recently, a quantitative method termed synthetic quantitative array (SQA) technology was developed to identify modulators of mitophagy in baker's yeast on a genome-wide level. The Ubp3-Bre5 deubiquitination complex was found as a negative regulator of mitophagy while promoting other autophagic pathways. Here we discuss how ubiquitination and deubiquitination regulates mitophagy and other selective forms of autophagy and what argues for using baker's yeast as a model to study the ubiquitin-dependent mitophagy pathway.

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